Imagine a world where we carry the classroom in our pockets. Where learning integrates into the context of our lives. An interconnected world, available to everyone, everywhere. Constant engagement.
That’s the dream.
In some ways, we already live there. Our phones, tablets, and computers give us a constant stream of information. Our universities and corporate training departments use Learning Management Systems (LMS) to deliver ever-increasing learning opportunities.
But we’re not quite there, yet. Something is missing. Something that is only now infiltrating our day-to-day lives. Something that can spur the next evolution of how we learn.
What’s this magic thing that will unite us all?
We call it the Internet of Things (IoT).
Most learning professionals aren’t familiar with IoT, what it is, and how integrating it with their LMS will enhance and expand opportunities to educate. But IoT is on the verge of fulfilling its potential as a rockstar learning facilitator.
Buckle up—it’s time to speed up the future of learning and teaching.
The Internet of Things
That’s a pretty generic term, isn’t it? What sort of things are we talking about?
Physical objects made smarter by taking advantage of data-gathering instruments—such as sensors and beacons—that share all that data, using cloud-based applications that connect devices together. The data is then collected, analyzed, and put to good use, depending on the needs of the field it’s being collected for.
IoT devices are all around us. Some examples: FitBits, Apple’s iWatch, Roku Streaming Media Players, Amazon’s Echo. The list goes on and on. If a device can connect to the Internet, and can send or receive data, it’s an IoT device.
And a vehicle for learning.
What IoT Can Do
“IoT is whatever you want to make it do,” says Anthony Biondi, Brella’s programming director. “It is poised to completely change the way we interact with information and with each other.” It’s the Fitbit watch syncing data with your phone; the alarm clock telling your coffeemaker to brew a fresh pot when your alarm goes off.
Brella programmer Anne Jurack points out the correlation between Web 3.0—the current evolution of the web—and what IoT is contributing by connecting data and applications with mobile Internet devices. “With Web 3.0, everybody is a content creator and an experiencer, and you’re hooked up to that experience all the time. We can use that tech well or use it to waste time.”
With so many things IoT can do (home security, road safety, shopping, sightseeing), let’s focus on how it can change the way we learn.
Tapping into IoT’s Learning Potential
When IoT is paired with an LMS, we can extend the learning process in new ways that are accessible, relevant, and impactful.
- On Mobile Devices – Imagine being in school again. With IoT, you can access your syllabus from your phone anytime you want, work on a group project while video chatting with other students, and have all of your research, notes, and assignment guidelines at your fingertips…away from your laptop.
- For On Demand and Self-directed Learning – IoT is embracing the world of discovery activities, open platforms for problem solving, and facilitating on-demand and self-directed learning. Learners can absorb and interact with content at a comfortable pace. Merging IoT and LMS also accommodates different educational levels, tailored for the individual learner instead of an analog, one-size-fits-all approach.
- In the Classroom – How about sending students information pertaining to an assignment mobile-to-mobile during class? SMART is taking this approach with their digital whiteboards:
Handwritten notes can be saved and downloaded to an LMS, and to students’ computers and phones. Assessment and evaluation occurs in real-time as IoT’s data analytics give instructors up-to-date information of student progress, or employee training development.
Take this idea a step further, and we have students conducting outside research while instantly uploading their photos, video, and articles. With an application like Scanmarker, they can scan printed text to their phones that transfers to their LMS. Students get an augmented education, and teachers and trainers can work smarter instead of harder.
“IoT before it was IoT was active engagement and sharing stories,” Biondi says. “It was my family walking me around Italy, giving me two thousand years’ worth of history. There are people who want to share that information. Imagine watching the video of a WWII vet sharing his or her story while standing where radar stations once were, on the coast of England, during the Battle of Britain, thanks to a neatly placed IoT device. You’re not going to get that experience, in a classroom, from a textbook.” The City of Chicago is doing just that with some of their statues around the city.
“When you view education as separate from the things you love, you want to do it less,” Jurack notes. “If it’s integrated into your life the way IoT can provide, you have that information at your fingertips, through the device you use every day. It will bridge the gap between physical and virtual materials, so the world of instruction and the world you live in won’t be so separate. It will expand the classroom beyond the classroom.”
Advocating for IoT and LMS Integration
LMS and IoT haven’t yet merged in the way we know they can, because most learning management software hasn’t gotten acquainted with something as new as IoT. This merger also hinges on greater awareness of the ways IoT can improve LMS. Those in the education and training industries need to allocate funding to implement the new technology and take advantage of the data these tools collect.
The good news: IoT offers seamless integration, and its barrier to entry is low. Beacons and sensors are relatively cheap, and all they require is someone to program them to incorporate the tech into LMS software. “It’s not going to have a huge physical infrastructure cost,” explains Biondi. “You have the setup for it—wifi, Chromebooks, tablets, things that most schools and companies already use—so the next step is how do you enhance that? IoT allows for simple, fast-integrated, fast-absorbed information that’s put together in digestible and fun ways for the user. It’s UX first and mobile first.”
According to IBM’s Watson IoT Platform, connected devices will grow from 13 billion to over 29 billion by 2020. The single predicted greatest source of data on the planet? IoT. We say put that data to use, and elevate education to the forefront of technology advancement.
We can’t think of a better way to learn than the hands-on, interactive, interconnected communication that IoT and LMS can provide together. The future of education lies in the synthesis of software applications (LMS) and the mobile world, bringing the interactive education experience to the devices we’re most comfortable with. Learning without learning.
Are you ready to embrace it?
The Brella Blog is just the beginning. If your company is interested in learning more about IoT’s capabilities and how we can help, we’re a phone call or an email away.